Source: The Willits News, July 28, 2017
It doesn’t take a whole lot of detailed research to see that mental
health facilities are still badly needed in Mendocino County. According
to the county’s Behavioral Health Advisory annual report for 2015-16,
the committee recognized the inadequacy of both substance abuse and
disorder treatment services and urged the Board of Supervisors to
prioritize financial resources.
Board members in their report
supported maximizing the use of all available funding resources,
locating and staffing substance abuse treatment disorder options
county-wide and providing transportation support for those remote
locations, among some suggestions.
On the law enforcement end, earlier in the year the MCSO
announced they planned to stop responding to crisis calls and
non-violent 5150s. Section 5150 of the state’s Welfare and Institutions
Code authorizes a qualified law enforcement officer or clinician to
section a person suspected of having a mental disorder that makes them a
danger to themselves or others.
As reported by the Mendocino Beacon earlier this year, the costs are staggering with emergency room visits by people placed on 5150 holds.
Since the county has had no emergency facilities for mentally ill
patients since the shuttering of the psychiatric health facility, known
as the PHF unit in 1999, law enforcement and regional medical
facilities have been burdened with a lack of resources to deal with the
growing demand for services.
To address some of the issues, an
ordinance was developed by Sheriff Tom Allman and a 12-member planning
team which he assembled and placed on the November 2016 ballot.
ordinance proposed to levy a half cent county sales tax limited to five
years and was projected to raise $22 million towards the creation of a
locked psychiatric facility in the county. The initiative also included
development of a training facility for mental health and public safety
professionals and citizens.
Dubbed Measure AG, the measure was defeated by voters when it
failed to reach the two-thirds super majority vote required during the
November election. As reported last week, county social service
employees and Allman are taking a second stab at passing a mental health tax bill.
of the Board of Supervisors said they hoped the new measure has enough
for approval from voters. It is clear that whatever shape the proposed
retooled initiative takes that services in Mendocino and Willits are
still desperately needed and this has been the case for quite some time.
While doing research for an article regarding drug prevention and
health, I discovered last year there are few resources available
locally in the Willits area and the services that are available for
mentally ill patients are scattered throughout the county. For example,
Redwood Community Services offers mental health crisis support in both
Ukiah and Fort Bragg.
These centers are designed to deal with
treatment options such as psychiatric consultations, referrals to
follow-up services and assessment and crisis intervention.
This type of facility is non-existent in Willits and Frank R.
Howard Hospital does not have the capacity to deal with the mentally
Although drug abuse and mental illness are often linked,
qualified therapists and specialized services can best be managed at a
localized facility equipped to deal with the staggering demands in
psychiatric care. Currently, there are not enough services offered and
there is a lack of constant outreach and support on the local level.
Frank R. Howard Hospital Foundation has been exploring the possibility
of utilizing the old Willits hospital as a locked facility for in
patient psychiatric care, but according to its board of directors
President Margie Handley, it will still take two to three months even
after (if) the new tax measure is approved by voters, to determine what
it would cost to rehab the facility. She said it could be up to an
advisory committee if the ballot measure passes to decide if the
envisioned facility would become reality.
If more resources and funds become available as a result of voter
approval of the retooled health tax measure, that is a step in the